I have been married for 16 years and can count on one hand the number of times my husband and I have had sex. For the first five months of our relationship sex was frequent and passionate. Then I got the engagement ring and the excuses started.
I married him because he was the love of my life and hoped things would get better after the stress of planning a wedding was behind us. I was also in my mid-30s and wanted children. The honeymoon was a huge disappointment. Our two children were conceived through IVF. We have been in counseling, but at this point, I’m not attracted to him anymore.
He is kind, smart, funny, and a great provider. He is a fabulous father and he and our young teenage twins would be devastated if we divorced. In five years, the twins will be in college. Do I leave him after the kids go and try to find someone else? Or stay and live in a comfortable but platonic marriage?
—Too Good to Go, Too Bad to Stay
On your way to the fertility clinic to mix up your gametes in the laboratory because your physically capable husband is so phobic and twisted about sex that he won’t do the deed with you, I wonder if an inner voice said, “This is completely crazy.”
Yes, you were eager to have children, but when your husband insisted on a celibate honeymoon, that was the time to recognize the extent of his pathology. If you have a normal sex drive, I don’t know how you can consider continuing your monastic existence (actually, I’m betting a lot more sex has taken place at monasteries than in your marriage) once the kids have gone.
Frankly, I don’t know why you should condemn yourself to another five years of this. If for the sake of your children’s stability that sacrifice seems worth it to you, that’s your choice. But I’d suggest you go back into couples therapy and discuss the possibilities of divorce or open marriage. Your husband has reneged on one of the basic principles of your union, and you’re entitled to seek a physical connection elsewhere.
I’m a single mother and my ex-husband has stopped paying child support (I’m working on that, but there’s no money now). I’ve got a new job in health care, which is secure but low-paying. I have $20 in my checking account and am about to file for bankruptcy. My 11-year-old son and I are barely getting by, but I’m grateful for what we do have. He is not. I’ve shielded him as much as possible from our financial straits but that leaves him wondering why we don’t eat out all the time like his friends, go out for entertainment like his friends, or constantly upgrade to the latest-and-greatest-whatever like his friends. What do I tell him when he asks for something and the real answer is, “I’m broke”? It’s not that he’s always asking for things that are extravagances. One week, we were out of milk and I couldn’t get more because I didn’t have the money. When this happens, what can I say?
– Trying to Be a Good Steward
“We can’t afford that” should be a standard part of the parental vocabulary; it’s not an example of child abuse. In trying to protect your son from the difficult realities of his circumstances, you have surely left him more anxious and confused. His father’s gone and isn’t even helping raise him financially. You try to act as if everything is fine, but then tell him there’s not going to be milk for the cereal until the end of the week. Your son deserves the truth, told carefully and sensitively. Explain to him that because you’re living on a single income, and you don’t get paid a lot, money is tight. Fortunately, you have a good job, a home and you’re both going to be OK. But you two need to live on a strict budget. That means you can’t buy some of things for him his friends have, and restaurants are for very special treats. Then tell him you two are going to work as a team. Have him grocery shop with you and keep track of what you’re spending — that will be good for his math skills. At home make cheap, delicious meals together — learning to cook will be another excellent life skill. Enroll him in free activities; for example, see if there’s a nearby Boys & Girls Club. Look into all the services that are available to you: food stamps, food banks, subsidized meals at school, etc. Convey to him that living within your means does not mean deprivation, but the comfort in knowing that what you have, you can pay for.
I plan to be married soon. My fiancé and I don’t want a big to-do but would like to mark the occasion with a small ceremony and invite immediate family and a few close friends. This is a second marriage for both of us. My ex-husband and I remained civil to one another for the sake of our children. Once the hurt of our failed marriage had healed, we developed a friendship based on mutual interests and shared history. My fiancé and my ex get along well, and we occasionally socialize with him and his significant other. My ex is a judge and as such is able to perform weddings. My fiancé and I talked it over and would like to ask him to marry us. We haven’t asked him yet and aren’t sure he will agree, but we want to extend the invitation. Problem is when I mentioned our plan to my sisters, they had a fit. They said it would be tacky and would make other family members uncomfortable to have my ex marry us. I know it’s an unusual situation, but it is also something we’d really like to do. Are our plans just too “out there”?
— Want Ex to Officiate:
I’m all for formers getting along, especially when there are children involved. I’m also for intimate, low-key wedding ceremonies, especially when they are the second time around. But even if I disagree with your sisters throwing a fit, I agree with their point that it will take away from the sweetness of the moment if your loved ones are thinking that when your officiant gets to, “By the powers vested in me,” he might add, “it is with great relief that I say thank goodness she’s yours and not mine.” You do not want the moment that you two are being joined to be accompanied by mass eye-rolling and elbows to the ribs by those in attendance. It’s fine if your ex and his girlfriend attend the ceremony, but surely you and your fiancé can find a mutually agreeable person to preside over your wedding who does not also have carnal knowledge of either of you.
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